State Graduation Rate Holds Steady

95% Get Diplomas in Second Year of SOL Rule

Virginia's graduation rate remained virtually unchanged between last year and this year, with 2005 being the second year in which seniors had to pass high school Standards of Learning exams to receive a diploma.

This year, 94.6 percent of seniors graduated from high school, compared with 94.2 percent in 2004.

Many SOL critics predicted that graduation rates would fall in 2004, when students were required for the first time to pass six high school tests for a standard diploma and nine tests for an advanced diploma.

Fairfax Disaster Plan Outlined

Most Residents Would Be Told to Shelter in Place

If a terrorist attack or natural disaster occurs, Fairfax County leaders will order most residents to shelter in place but also will have more than 1,000 school buses ready to evacuate people to shelters or sites where medicine might be dispensed, County Executive Anthony H. Griffin said.

Griffin outlined the county's emergency plans for the Board of Supervisors. Fairfax is among several local jurisdictions reviewing its disaster plans after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The county's plan underscores a scenario that became clear to Washington area leaders after the hurricanes: An evacuation of a county of 399 square miles and 1 million people would be nearly impossible.

Residents would be told to shelter in place with a three-day supply of food and water, clothing, medication and other personal items.

Metro to Hold Hearing on Vienna Project

Davis Withdraws Transit Funding Threat

Metro's board of directors voted to hold a public hearing on the sale of land to the developers of a controversial project at the Vienna Metro station, prompting Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) to withdraw his threat to withhold federal transit funding.

Developer Pulte Homes had been negotiating with Metro to buy the land for its 56-acre MetroWest project, a development of 13 residential, retail and office towers.

Davis wanted the project scaled back and had threatened to use the $1.5 billion House spending bill for Metro to force the county to do so.

The Metro board was scheduled to vote Thursday on the $6.5 million sale. But under heavy pressure from neighborhood activists and Davis, board Chairman T. Dana Kauffman postponed the vote until next month and scheduled a Metro public hearing on the sale and the project for Nov. 1.

Ex-Maryland Schools Official Convicted

Educator Laundered Money in Va. Drug Ring

A former Maryland education official has been convicted of money laundering in a Virginia-based drug ring, a spokesman for federal prosecutors said.

A jury in Norfolk found Pamela Y. Hoffler-Riddick, 44, guilty of five counts of money-laundering, said Frank R. Shults, chief of liaison for the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Hoffler-Riddick oversaw 39 Prince George's schools as a regional assistant superintendent when she was arrested in January.

Each count on which she was convicted carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.

8 Teens Suspended for On-Campus Sex

Manassas Students Met After School

Eight Manassas teenagers have been disciplined for engaging in sexual activity inside the Osbourn High School auditorium.

According to a letter written by the School Board, the students "gathered freely and voluntarily" in the closed and darkened auditorium after school at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 28. They were caught by a janitor.

According to sources familiar with the incident, the students -- two girls and six boys -- received suspensions.

Both girls and three of the boys engaged in sexual intercourse or had oral sex while the other three boys watched, the sources said.

A police investigation determined that the "sexual activity among the students did not reach the threshold of prosecution," according to a police department spokesman.

Across the Region

Panda Named; Synagogues Get Security Grants

* The National Zoo's giant panda cub was officially dubbed Tai Shan and heralded as a symbol of friendship between the United States and China. Tai Shan, pronounced "Tie Shahn," means "peaceful mountain."

* Thirty-one nonprofit organizations in the Washington area, including 14 synagogues and eight hospitals, have received federal grants to fortify their facilities under an anti-terrorism program that has divided Jewish leaders and drawn criticism from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.